Column: A look back at the 2019 OVC Champions
Editor's Note: Reporter Ashley Ellis was a member of Team 43, the 2019 OVC championship team.
As the Ohio Valley Conference tournament approaches for the 2021 Southeast softball team, the 2019 OVC championship team looks back on their season in hopes to help inspire Team 45.
The 2019 Ohio Valley Conference regular season and tournament championship team had a record of 46-18. Team 43 set nine new single-season team records, including runs scored, home runs, total bases, stolen bases, stolen base attempts, saves, batters struck out, wins and RBIs (runs batted in).
Southeast alum Parker Bandy said the program would not be what it is today without Redburn’s efforts.
“The biggest thing that set us apart from all the other teams was our leader. It was Redburn,” Bandy said.
Sarah Messex, Team 43’s shortstop and Southeast alum, said what separates him from others is “he’s not our coach first.”
“What he understands is that coaching goes a lot farther than what happens on the field and what your stats are. For us to be a good team, we have to want to be a good player, and that starts with having a good coach that we can trust,” Messex said. “You’re not just another number on the field — you are a person to him. He truly cares about you and wants to see you succeed not only on the field but in life.”
Former Southeast softball player and one of Team 43’s catcher’s, Rachael Donald, said Redburn always cared about the little things, and that is what helped them get to winning a championship.
“That is a huge thing I will always carry with me for the rest of my life that he was big on, and it made a huge difference in the way we played, the way we acted, the little things on and off the field,” Donald said. “No matter how small it is, you do things the right way. It really shows when you’re on the big stage, the little things will come through, and either you do them, or you don’t. He installed that in us, and we did do the little things, and it showed that year.”
The unity the 2019 championship team had not only was beneficial off the field but on it, as well. Donald described Team 43 as “effortless.”
“We didn’t even have to talk to each other to know what was going on,” Donald said. “We could just look at each other and know what each other was thinking. We read each other so well.”
After losing to Jacksonville State University (JSU) on the first day of the tournament, former softball player and pitcher Haley Thogmartin knew her team was going to get to the championship game.
“Me and Haley went behind the dugout to just take a minute after the first loss to JState, and I remember looking at her and saying, ‘We have a long road ahead,’ and she grabbed my hand and said we have a long road to the championship, and we are going to make it there,” Messex said.
On championship day, the Redhawks had to defeat the reigning three-time OVC champions, JSU, twice. That's exactly what they did.
“When our backs are against the wall, we knew every single person on that field and in the dugout were going to be there for us on and off the field. We knew we could count on people outside of softball. We knew we could count on the coaches outside of softball. It was never forced,” Bandy said. “Winning the season the way we did, there is no other way it could have happened. It was written in a book before we even knew it.”
When asked what Team 43 means to them, Bandy, Donald and Messex had nothing but heartwarming answers. For Bandy, it meant inclusiveness. For Donald, it meant lifelong lessons. She said Team 43 is something that will stick with her for the rest of her life. Messex said when she thinks of her favorite team, she thinks of the 2019 championship team.
“I think of a community. Every single person on that team was my friend. I genuinely love every person on that team and know every single person on that team had my back,” Messex said. “I never had to be worried that someone wasn’t going to pick me up, be there to make me feel better or help me out. When I think of my favorite team, I think of them.”
As of May 5, the 2021 Southeast softball team is currently in first place in the conference. The OVC tournament is set in Oxford, Ala., for May 13-15.
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